Some people like guns. Lots of guns. Some people also believe that one can’t ever have too many guns. Guns are like tools, and different guns have different applications. I’ve previously shared an article with my thoughts on assembling a custom AR-15, with a good but slightly more expensive build. With that in mind, what about those people who don’t want a custom AR-15, an AR-15 at all, nor an expensive gun? Maybe, someone just wants an easy-to-use, reliable gun for home defense, and that will be the extent of their gun collection. Keep on reading, because I have a solution, and a good option for that: The Palmetto State Armory AR-9.

The Palmetto State Armory AR-9, just as the name suggests, is an AR-style carbine, but instead of a .223 or 5.56 mm caliber rifle bullet, it is chambered in 9mm. It offers the same flexible and adaptable platform as any other AR. In addition, normal and standard AR accessories will work with the gun, as well. The main differences, of course, are the rounds themselves and bolt carrier group, the barrel, and the magazines. Just about everything else is going to be like any other AR. And even with those differences, it’s going to function the exact same way as an AR.


Pistol-Caliber Carbines Are the Best Guns for Home Defense

As I have shared before, my recommendation for the best home defense guns are pistol-caliber carbines.

Again, an AR-9 is simply an AR carbine with a pistol-caliber bullet. If we were to use hollow-point bullets in this AR-9, we would now have the best home defense gun option available. It features all the benefits of pistol ammunition, plus the benefits of a rifle in the same package. Specifically, in an AR-9 with an 8-10″ barrel.

In a home-invasion scenario, a carbine platform will give you back every advantage, and then some, that would be lost in using a pistol in this kind of situation.

Palmetto State Armory AR-9
Palmetto State Armory AR-9, 8″ barrel, Vortex Spark optic, Magpul backup sights, Streamlight gun light, and Crosstac sling. (Courtesy of author)


The Palmetto Sate Armory AR-9

Palmetto State Armory makes pretty decent guns. Right off the bat, I will say they make good guns for the price. Like anything else, you can always find something more expensive and of better quality. However, what Palmetto State armory does well, is make decent, entry- to mid-level guns affordable to the average person. And more power to them. They have done good things for the 2a and firearms community and I am a supporter of that. Palmetto State Armory is also a veteran-owned business, as well.

The Palmetto State Armory AR-9 fits squarely into this product offering. Just like any other AR-style rifle, AR-9s can quickly approach $2,000 or more. The Palmetto State Armory AR-9 has a much more affordable price tag. For between $600 and $1,000, their AR-9 is quite affordable even when compared to regular pistols. Especially, for what it is.


Palmetto State Armory AR-9: The Good Stuff

Like any other mid-level product offering, there are pros and cons. A Toyota Camry is a great car that does a lot of things well and is of great quality. A BMW 3-Series, on the other hand, does all of those things and is a bit fancier. It’s no different in the gun world. This is one of the pros of Palmetto State Armory: you will get a good gun that gets the job done, and you will rarely regret it.

This particular model has an 8″ barrel, which is where I recommend starting. At this length, it uses 9mm which is optimal. It creates more velocity, is more accurate, and has a longer range than a normal 4-5″ barrel which most semi-auto pistols have. Velocity is what is needed in order for hollow-point ammo to expand and perform the way they are intended which is to create more internal damage, make a bigger hole, and not exit the body. I prefer the 8″ barrel over a longer barrel in the AR-9, as it’s less tricky to handle a shorter gun indoors. The gun’s length is the sweet spot for such guns, and this is a huge pro for Palmetto’s AR-9.

AR 27-round Magpul
Palmetto State Armory with a 27-round Magpul PMAG® 27 GL9® (GLOCK magazine)

Also, I find the gun’s barrel to be very accurate. I know that might surprise some people. Palmetto State Armory forges and cuts their own barrels, and they do have a decent reputation. They also make barrels for firearms legend, FN, well known in the military space. Once I dialed in my Palmetto State Armory AR-9 for both the red dot and the backup sights, I was quite pleased with its accuracy, even out to 25-30 or more meters.

Another pro is that it can use Glock magazines. Whether they are Glock-branded OEM magazines, Magpul, or others, this model of AR-9 is designed for them. Those mags are very easy to find.

Additionally, like any other AR platform, they are just too dang easy to shoot. They have even less recoil than other rifle-caliber ARs and are just as accurate at short- to mid-range. With an optic, a red dot, for example, they are “money” all day long. With a sling, gun light, and optic, you have a very stable, very accurate platform for any home defense application. I am obviously a fan.


Palmetto State Armory AR-9: The Not-As-Good Stuff

While I am fully aware that it is not the BMW of AR-9s, a couple of things could be improved, at least a little bit.

The stock trigger is a little bit stiff. Triggers, will break in and get a bit looser over time. In the AR-9 that I have, however, I find it to be just a bit too much; it approaches the point where that much trigger pull, and such a tight pull, can affect accuracy and throw shots off just a little bit. This is less important at very close ranges of course, but something to consider, just the same. However, and to be perfectly fair, this is an easy fix with a trigger upgrade. Palmetto State Armory has those, as well. Lots of shooters are of the school that any stock trigger should be replaced and upgraded.

This particular model does not have the “last-round bolt hold-open feature” as a regular AR has. This is common in AR-9s, although I do not prefer it. Some AR-9s do have that feature, however, as do some Palmetto State Armory AR-9 products, depending on the model. While it is a part of the design and functionality of this particular build of parts, it is something to be aware of. It is mildly annoying simply because we have been accustomed to ARs having it. With the feature, it is slightly more convenient to notice when the mag is empty and to reload the gun a bit faster. Is it a deal-breaker or show-stopper? No, not at all.

The final drawback I see in this AR-9, at least with the one I purchased, is that the magazine well and magazine release are a little tight. Meaning, sometimes the magazine takes a little extra effort to load. The worst part of this is that the magazine release sometimes does not drop the magazine and it does not fall automatically with gravity. Sometimes, it takes extra effort to release and remove the magazine by pulling. Every now and again, it’s not a simple, one-fingered job like it should be, in contrast to other AR models. I find this to be the single largest drawback to the gun and, the most frustrating. This is basic functionality, and even with a lower price point, I think that could be worked out a bit better, even if it only happens occasionally.

Palmetto State Armory AR-9
Palmetto State Armory AR-9. This build is configured for a left-handed shooter (author).


Overall Thoughts and Evaluation

Would I recommend buying and owning the Palmetto State Armory AR-9? Absolutely.

All things considered, for its price and for what you get, it offers great value. Keeping in mind the few drawbacks and things to consider, will help you fix or overcome them. Perhaps putting a couple of upgrades in the gun, like a better trigger, will also make a big difference, as well. A bit of gunsmithing might fix a couple of those issues, while you are at it. Either way, I don’t think you will regret it.

Above all else, it is a great option for a very solid home-defense gun. And in case we forget: they are really freaking fun to shoot.

You can check out Palmetto Armory’s AR-9 options below:

Palmetto Armory AR-9s